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Top 25 – Week 13

By Phil Steele

Last week the Top 25 Forecasts went 17-4 81% and on the year they are now 197-42 82%! On the bottom of the forecasts, I have also listed some Upset Specials for this week which look to bounce back this week.

For projected box scores and the last 14 years matchups, click here.


The Trojans boast the nation’s best WR, Marqise Lee, for new starter Wittek to throw to as USC attempts to upend #1 Notre Dame

The Trojans have flat out dominated this one time rivalry as they are 9-1 and have outgained the Irish by 165 ypg. In their lone loss, USC was playing without Barkley (inj’d) and they missed a wide open receiver for a td late and lost by 4. Last year was a great situation for the Irish as they were off a bye, having their first night game in 21 years but USC had a 443-267 yard edge and won 31-17. The key play of the game occurred when backup QB Crist fumbled the snap at the SC2 and USC returned it 80 yards for a td (the dreaded 14 point swing). At the start of the season, many could have predicted that this game would have National Title implications but very few would have predicted that it would be ND coming in at #1 (1st time since ‘93). USC stumbles in at 7-4 after a 38-28 loss to cross-town rival UCLA, a game they battled back from a 24-0 deficit. QB Barkley took a hard hit late (shoulder) and did not return. He is out here so the Trojans will go to backup Wittek who will still have the nation’s best WR in Lee (1605 yards) to throw to. ND is off a 38-0 win over Wake Forest as they jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead and cruised in the 2H. QB Golson continues to improve and threw for a career-high 346 yards (317 in 1H) while the Irish are still #1 in scoring D allowing just 10 ppg and just 9 td’s all year! The Coliseum has been a House of Horrors for ND teams coming in with National Title hopes including 1964, 1970 and 1980 and I think the Irish are the next team that succumbs to undefeated pressure.



The Iron Bowl visitor has now won 3 in a row in this series. In each of those 3 the winner has gone on to become the National Champ with a chance to do so again this year as #2 Bama is right back in the mix after last week’s shake-up atop the polls. Last year on the road Bama was even more dominant than the final score indicates. They entered the 4Q with a 309-44 yard edge but fumbled in the EZ and Auburn fell on it for a td and Aub returned the 3Q’s opening KO 83 yards for a td. With their 42-14 win, Bama ended Aub’s 14 game home win streak. Both teams come in off dominating wins over FCS foes, as Bama beat Western Carolina 49-0 and Auburn picked up its 3rd win of the year with a 51-7 win over Alabama A&M. It should be noted that Auburn did lose to two Top 10 teams (Clemson and LSU) by a combined 9 points but those games were back in September and they have been non-competitive since vs the elite competition. This one should be no contest as the Tide move on to Atlanta with a chance to capture their 3rd National Title in 4 years!



Georgia is 10-1 in this series. Last year the situation favored GT as UGA had the SEC Title game on deck but they still won 31-17 on the road. UGA had a 380-355 yard edge but GT gained 108 of their yards on the final 2 drives. UGA does have the large edge of facing the triple option last week vs Ga Southern in a 45-14 win (was just 7-7 mid-2Q). UGA QB Murray now leads the NCAA in pass eff with a 28-7 ratio. While the BCS may have UGA ranked #3 right now, I can’t shake the 35-7 beatdown they received by SC and also when they barely escaped at UK 29-24 while GT has been impressive in their 3 game win streak. They are now bowl eligible for a 16th consecutive season after last week’s 42-24 win at Duke (did lead just 28-24 entering 4Q) and have split reps between QB’s Lee/Washington in recent weeks. After Miami declared themselves ineligible for this year’s postseason, the Jackets now find themselves with a conference championship game on deck. However, with a National Title possibility in play and the SEC Title game on deck, UGA is playing with even more pressure and despite the advantage of seeing the option last week, I think this one will go into the 4Q undecided.



QB Braxton Miller will lead a fired up, bowl-banned Ohio St squad as they avenge last year’s loss to Michigan

Last year was the first time since ‘29 that both teams were directed by first year head coaches and UM was at home. D-Rob accounted for 5 td’s while Braxton Miller overthrew 3 likely td passes and threw for 235 and rushed for 100. OSU led 24-23 at half but lost 40-34 ending their series record 7 game win streak. UM has dropped its last 2 in Columbus by 30 and 35 points. The Bucks’ luck continued as they moved to 11-0 thanks to a 21-14 OT win at Wisconsin. A 68 yard PR td helped OSU jump out to a 14-0 lead but the Badgers dominated the rest of regulation with OSU driving into UW territory just once while UW drove into Buckeye territory 6 times scoring 2 td’s, missing a 40 yard FG and fumbling at the 1. After UW hit a td pass with :08 left to force OT, OSU drove for a td and held the Badgers on 4 plays for the win which secured the Leaders Trophy. QB Miller (168 ypg, 57%, 14-6, 1214 rush) was held to a season low 145 total yards. UM steamrolled a punchless Iowa squad 42-17 piling up a 513-309 yard edge. QB Gardner (278 ypg, 66%, 7-3 in 3 starts) accounted for 6 td’s but the big news was his new backfield mate D-Rob who ran 13 times for 98 yards in his debut at RB. Since Gardner took over UM is avg 440 ypg and 38 ppg vs 378 ypg and 28 ppg under D-Rob. With no bowl game this is the Buckeyes’ Super Bowl and they are playing with legit revenge. Keep in mind no Big Ten team has won back-to-back games vs the Bucks since Wisconsin in ‘03-’04 and since that time OSU is 12-0 avenging a conference loss.



UO has now won 4 straight in this series which is the longest streak since ‘97 winning those by an avg of 46-28! Last year the situation appeared to favor OSU as UO needed a win here to get to the Pac-12 Title game but had their National Title hopes burst the week before with an upset loss to USC. The Ducks still managed a 670-315 yard edge and won 49-21. Again this year, OSU finds itself taking on a UO squad off a bubble-bursting loss. Last week the AP #1 Ducks fell 17-14 at home to Stanford in OT snapping the nation’s longest win streak (13). UO had built a 14-7 lead but all’d SU to convert on 4&1 and get a td on the next play to tie it with 1:35 left. UO gained 0 yards and attempted a 41 yard FG (Maldonado just 1 att prior to game) but it dinked off the crossbar. SU hit a 37 yard FG for the win. OSU’s Mannion got his 1st start since late Oct and hit 24-34-325 as the Beavers rolled Cal 62-14 last week. It was the 2nd most points vs a conference foe in school history and highest point total vs Cal ever as OSU tallied 35-17 FD, 559-332 yard and +3 TO edges. UO’s #1 off can score quickly, but this fired up OSU squad has my #13 D, has taken on a tougher schedule (#2-51) and will have a loud home crowd which has me thinking this will go down to the wire.



Amazingly the last 5 years this once close rivalry has now been decided by 33, 30, 21, 24 and 14 points. From 2007-’09 the Gators went 3-0, winning by an avg of 42-14 and were +260 ypg. The last 2 years UF lost on the road 31-7 but were only outgained 333-276 and last year UF actually had 184-95 yard and 11-7 FD edges but lost 21-7. Head coaches Fisher and Muschamp purchased a house together when both were assistants but expect no love lost here as both of these teams, especially the Gators, are back in the National Title chase after last week’s shake-up. This will be the 1st time since ‘00 that both come into this game ranked in the Top 10. UF QB Driskel is expected to return this week (missed last week) although his playing time is unclear, but Brissett does have some experience dating back to last year (1st start came in Death Valley). On the other side FSU QB Manuel is avg 253 ypg (69%) with a 21-6 ratio and last week the Noles clinched the ACC Atlantic with a 41-14 win over MD as their #1 total D allowed just 27 yards and 3 FD’s in the 1H. Both teams feature top-notch D’s and ST’s but the real mismatch is on offense where FSU is avg 43 ppg this year, while UF is avg just 18 ppg the last 4 games and that came against the likes of Mizzou, Louisiana and an FCS team last week. Keep in mind, FSU is just one bad half away (NCSt) from being the #1 team right now and I think they make an emphatic statement here against one of the SEC’s best.



he home team has won 4 in a row in this series and Miles is now 4-3 vs UA. Coming into last year the previous 7 meetings had all been decided by 8 points or less and UA jumped out to a 14-0 lead with LSU trying to stay #1. Mathieu’s 92 yd PR td tied it at 14 in the 2Q and the rout was on as the Tigers rolled to a 41-17 win. After starting the season in the Top 10, UA is 4-7 after LW’s 45-14 loss at Miss St. Consistent TO issues usually are the sign of a less focused team and the Hogs fit the bill as last week’s -4 TO performance dropped them to -17 on the year! All week long I read that Les Miles thought his Tigers were playing their best ball of the year, but the reality is they’re just playing typical “Mad Hatter” style, blowing a 4Q lead to Bama where Miles’ gambles back-fired, then LW, when they were left for dead, getting an 89 yd PR td for momentum and the win over Ole Miss 41-35. QB Mettenberger has been cleared to air it out recently (avg 34 pass attempts and 285 yds the last 3 weeks) but he did throw 2 costly int’s last week. I think this could play out a lot like the Bama gm for Ark where they could play their best and still be losing the gm in the 1Q. If that happens, look for them to mail it in.



The Tigers return Richardson here, but it won’t be enough vs ‘Johnny Football’ and his A&M team

This Big 12 matchup….err SEC matchup features two teams heading in opposite directions and may be the 1st time I’ve ever seen conference foes play at one home team’s stadium 3 straight years due to Big 12/SEC scheduling quirks. Since a 51-14 road win by A&M in 1999, MO is now 5-1 in this series and in those six meetings, there have been 4 upsets (3 by MO). In ‘10 the Aggies lost outright 30-9 in a game MO led 23-0 at the half. Last year just as A&M had done all year, they blew a double-digit lead as they were up 28-14 but would lose 38-31 in OT. Last week A&M, off their huge upset of Bama, jumped out to a 47-0 lead then predictably put it on cruise control and gave up 4 straight td’s to the FCS’s #3 team Sam Houston St. It’s amazing to me that had Bama rallied to beat A&M, no one would be talking about Aggie QB Manziel for the Heisman but now he stands as possibly the front-runner as the nation’s #2 total offense leader. With a bowl bid on the line and playing with renewed confidence after a road win at Tenn, MO disappointed me last week in a 31-27 loss at home to Syracuse. The Tigers did play without arguably their best player in DT Richardson (suspended) and for what seems like the 100th time this year, QB Franklin left the game with an injury and Berkstresser (4-8-85-0-1) had to QB most of the 4Q. While MO again needs a win to make its 8th consecutive bowl, a win here could put A&M in a BCS game as the Aggies hit the 10 win mark for the 1st time since ‘98.



This game sure got a lot more interesting after last week’s upsets from both teams. UCLA had a run of 5 wins in a row in this series from ‘04-’08 but Stan is now 3-0 winning by an avg of 35-12 (+100 ypg). Last year at home, Stanford got a 59/12pl drive for a td with 1:51 left after UCLA had been SOD on 4&10 to make it 45-19. Last week UCLA took control of the city, one year after the 50-0 embarrassment, by beating their cross-town rivals 38-28 and wrapping up the Pac-12 South. RB Franklin continued his AA type season with 171 yards and the 29 yard td clincher. The Bruins jumped out to a 24-0 lead and hung on. Stanford is off arguably its biggest win of the Shaw era with a 17-14 OT upset at Oregon. The difference between Stanford’s play recently can be attributed to rFr QB Hogan who is completing 74% of his passes with a 7-3 ratio and gives D’s an added dimension to defend as he can run (134 yards the last 3 weeks). This game has interesting intangibles as a Cardinal win ensures a rematch of these two teams next week in Palo Alto while a Bruin win means UCLA heads to Autzen for a 2nd consecutive year if the Ducks beat Oreg St (which would you prefer?). This is the Cardinal’s fifth away game in 7 weeks while UCLA is home for the 2nd consecutive week. The teams are evenly matched as UCLA has the offensive edge (#17-47) and SU has the D edge (#5-33) and for right now I’ll call for the home team by 3 but it could go either way.



CU was on a 10-2 run in this series but SC has won 3 in a row. Last year SC was at home and had an advantage with CU having the ACC Title game on deck. SC got its third straight win in the rivalry for the first time since 1968-70. SC dominated with a 450-153 yd edge and won 34-13. There may be no hotter team in the country right now, especially on offense, than the Tigers who come in winners of 7 consecutive games after their 62-48 win over NC State. The Tigers did fall behind 24-13 before scoring 42 straight points and have scored at least 37 points in 10 straight games. QB Boyd threw for 5 td’s and ran for 3 more as he set an ACC record while the Tigers ran a school record 102 plays for 754 yards. Last week South Carolina again struggled vs an option team (struggle against that offense every year under Spurrier) and only beat Wofford 24-7 as it was just 7-7 entering the 4Q. On the road SC is getting outgained by 22 ypg and was dominated in games vs LSU and Florida. If you’ve been keeping track of their quotes, there certainly is no love lost between HC Spurrier and Swinney but this time Swinney and the Tigers get bragging rights as they stake their claim for a Sugar Bowl berth with their best season since ‘81.



OU had won 8 in a row heading into last year but came into the ‘11 game with a banged up squad and QB Jones hadn’t thrown a td pass in the previous 2 games. OSU wrapped up its first conf title since ‘48 and was trying to impress the pollsters to land a spot in the BCS Title game. OU had 5 TO’s and OSU won 44-10 with the some Sooners questioning teammates efforts in the 2H of the game. OSU has lost 4 straight trips to Norman by 33 ppg! OU comes into this after a last minute rally to avoid the upset vs WV 50-49 as Jones threw for a school record 554 yards and 6 td’s including the game-winning 5 yarder to Stills on 4th & 3 with :24 left. The Sooners allowed a program record 778 yds to the Mountaineers including a school record 344 rush yards (16.4) to FBS receiving leader Austin who played RB for the first time. Last week the Cowboys and Red Raiders were knotted at 7 in 2Q before OSU erupted for 28 straight points on 3 long td passes and a 24 yard drive set up by a blocked punt. Chelf hit 11-21-229-3-0 in his second start and Walsh, who had been previously as announced out for the year (leg) came back to direct the goal-line offense and scored 2 td’s in their 59-21 win. With a Big 12 Title and BCS bowl shot on the line expect OU to play with a lot more effort than they did last year. The Cowboys have been playing really well and this will go down to the wire.



These two met in ‘99, ‘00 and then last year. NU won those 3 games by an avg score of 35-9 (+227 ypg). Last year NU’s Burkhead ran a school record 38 times for 160 yards. Iowa avoided getting shutout for the first time in 11 years when they got a td with 3:26 left in the inaugural game for the “Heroes” Trophy (20-7). The Huskers can wrap up a Legends division title with a win here after last week’s 38-14 defeat of Minny. NU scored td’s on 4 of its first 6 possessions and held the Gophers to 98 yards in the first 3Q’s before putting in the backups in the 4Q. QB Martinez (220 ypg, 64%, 21-8, 792 rush) became the Huskers all-time leading passer in the process. Iowa lost its 5th straight game and failed to become bowl eligible for the fist time since ‘00 after a 42-17 loss to Michigan. UI allowed UM to score on its first 6 possessions and was outgained 513-309 with 159 yards coming in the 4Q. QB Vandenberg did throw for 2 td’s for the first time this year (196 ypg, 58%, 7-6), a sharp contrast to last year’s 25. RB Weisman had his most carries (16-63) since Iowa’s last win on Oct 13th. Iowa has allowed over 400 ypg in 5 straight games and is being outgained by 190 ypg in the losing streak. I see no reason why that won’t continue here.



UT is 28-1 vs TCU including 4 straight wins by 17 ppg (last game in ‘07). Both are fresh off a bye with the hot Horns winners of 4 straight and back in the conversation for a Big 12 Title/BCS bowl after KSU’s loss. Big 12 pass eff leader QB Ash (235 ypg, 69%, 17-5) has found a go-to guy in deep threat Davis (837, 18.6). The 3 headed RB monster is avg 202 ypg (5.0) in the win streak with PS#1 Brown returning vs ISU after missing 5 games. The D has improved as well allowing just 15 ppg in the last 3. The Frogs are in the midst of the ‘measuring stick’ portion of their schedule with games vs the Big 12’s top 3 teams (KSU, UT and OU). They lost to #2 KSU 23-10 in their last outing providing the template for controlling the Cats who they held to season lows in FD’s (12) and total yards (260). QB Boykin (171, 58%, 14-8) left the KSU game with a shoulder injury but is expected to be fine here after spending the bye working on the pass game. TCU’s D remains the conference’s best holding opponents to 98 rush ypg (3.1) led by super frosh DE Fields who leads the Big 12 in tfl. After back-to-back BCS bowls in ‘09-’10 TCU could make the claim of being the state’s best but the Horns silence that conversation vs the Big 12 newcomers.



It’s been a series of streaks as UL won 3 in a row from ‘00-’06 then UC won 3 in a row and now UL has won 2 in a row. They won 26-0 here at home (UC ran just 6 plays in UL territory) in ‘10, and last year won 34-20 on the road although UC had a 329-299 yard edge. The Cards used the bye to regroup after their bubble bursting 45-26 loss at SU. Big East pass eff leader QB Bridgewater (286 ypg, 71%, 21-5) continued his fine play but the D had its worst performance of the season allowing the Orange 45 points and 524 total yards. With #1 rusher Perry (705, 5.2) out for the year the run game will now rely on Wright (680, 4.6). The Huskies also had a bye to focus on their final 2 games which they need to win to go to a bowl. UC won its first Big East game prior to the bye hanging on to beat Pitt 24-17 (led 24-0 at half) thanks to their first 100 yard rush performance since September 29th. The run game is crucial as QB Whitmer (233 ypg, 60%, 8-14) is among the FBS’s int leaders. Quietly the D ranks in the FBS’s top 25 in nearly every unit including total yards (296). The Cards have the Big East Championship game on deck next Thursday vs Rutgers and could find themselves looking ahead but should have enough here.



RU is now 5-2 in this series. After Pitt won in both ‘09 and ‘10, last year RU, at home, gave QB Nova his first start. The game changed in the 3Q when Pitt brought in Anderson at QB and on his 2nd drive he was int’d setting up an 18 yard RU td drive. RU got a 73 yard KR which set up a 14 yard td drive and added a 45 yard IR td for a misleading 34-10 win. There have been 4 upsets in the last 7 years. The Knights remain unbeaten in Big East play after last week’s 10-3 upset of Cincy. Highly touted RB Huggins finally put on his “Big-Boy” pants replacing the injured Jamison and ran for 179 yards (4.4) while RU’s D (#15) is clearly the Big East’s best. The Panthers come in off a late season bye after dropping back-to-back heartbreakers to ND/Conn as the loss to the Irish came in 3OT’s and their 2H rally vs UC came up just short. HC Chryst has done wonders with QB Sunseri who has a 16-2 ratio but he still holds onto the ball too long and is prone to being sacked (28). Keep in mind, Rutgers is in the second of back-to-back road games and a win next week vs Louisville gives them the Big East title regardless of this game. Pitt is notorious for playing to the level of its competition and I wouldn’t be surprised here if they pulled the upset.



Last year OU did have a commanding 391-217 yard edge but only won 17-10 at home. OU is 6-2 in its last 8 trips to Kent but lost the last time here, 28-6, as KSU was playing for departing HC Martin. The home team is 4-8 and 4 of the last 5 have been decided by single digits. Last Wednesday, a banged-up OU was destroyed 52-27 at Ball St. The DL depth issues have been a concern and they allowed 357 rush yards (9.2) to BSU. That’s not good news going up vs one of the best 1-2 RB punches in the country as Kent’s Archer/Durham have both topped 1,000 yards. KSU is having the best season in school history and is off an impressive 31-24 win at BG that clinched the MAC East. The sensational Archer was the difference with 241 yards and two highlight reel 70+ yard td runs! While KSU is in a big sandwich with the MAC Championship game on deck, playing in front of a home crowd will help ease those concerns as these teams look to be heading in opposite directions.



Jordan Lynch became the first QB in NCAA history to have a 400 yard passing and 150 yard rushing game last week. Here he and the Huskies go for their 11th straight win

Last year at home NI needed a win to clinch the MAC Title game. EM had 1st and goals at the 1 and 8 but settled for a pair of FG’s. EM finished with an 18-11 FD edge but NI won 18-12. EM is 1-10 in this series including 4 straight losses by an avg of 44-5. Last Wednesday the Huskies wrapped up the MAC West with a 31-24 win over Toledo as QB Lynch accounted for 569 of NI’s 596 yards and was the first QB in NCAA his to have a 400 yd passing and 150+ rush gm. The Huskies have now won 10 consecutive games since their loss to Iowa in the opener. In a fair world Lynch would get an invite to NY for the Heisman presentation as he is avg 235 ypg (64%) with a 22-4 ratio and leads the FBS in rushing among QB’s with 1,504 (7.0) and 16 td’s. The Eagles are flying high after securing the Michigan MAC Champ for a second straight year last week with a 29-23 win over rival Western Mich. EM was outgained 443-369 but benefitted from 2 WM TO’s and WM settling for 3 FG’s on their 2H scoring drives. While this is clearly a flat spot for the Huskies, they have the talent edges to cruise into Detroit with a 3 td win.



Mullen is now 3-0 (avg win 34-18) in the Egg Bowl and made this rivalry a priority when he was hired. Last year MSU’s 28 point margin of victory over Ole Miss was the school’s largest win over UM since 1919. UM was playing its final game for outgoing HC Nutt but MSU won 31-3 with a 317-202 yard edge. MSU had a 252-65 yard edge at the half and led 21-0. UM had won 5 in a row at home in the series but lost the last time here 31-23. Both teams are having a solid season as last week the Bulldogs stopped their 3 game slide with a 45-14 win over mistake prone Arkansas while Ole Miss, which is clearly a much better team under 1st year HC Freeze, is off its second of back-to-back heartbreaking losses. In the last 2 games vs Vandy/LSU UM blew 4Q leads which, had they held up, would have sent the Rebs to a bowl! The teams are close talent-wise as Miss has the slight offensive edge (#30-40), while Miss St has the slight defensive edge (#31-43) but it should be noted Miss has played the tougher schedule (#4-36). In a game that could come down to the wire, I’m going to go with the team that has proven it knows how to win these games and has the steadier QB play as MSU QB Russell has a 21-4 ratio while Miss QB Wallace only has a 14-13 ratio.



Last year on the road Utah St did lead 21-10 at the half but only had a 256-225 yard edge. Tied at 35, UI missed a 44 yard FG with 6:46 left. Utah St got a 4&gl 1 yard td in the first OT and in the second OT UI was int’d at the 2 in Utah St’s 49-42 win. The home team is a surprising 1-5 in this series. Don’t look for that trend to continue here as an argument could be made that the Aggies are the best non-BCS team this year after last week’s 48-41 OT win over previous BCS buster darling LA Tech. Utah St actually led 41-17 before LT made a furious 2H comeback to force OT. QB Keeton outplayed counterpart Cameron hitting 20-34-340 but more importantly had no TO’s (Cameron threw his first 2 int’s of year). UI is off a 34-27 loss to UTSA after falling behind 20-3 by halftime and is now 0-3 under interim HC Gesser. The talent edges are staggering for a WAC contest as the Aggies feature two Top 40 units while Idaho is among the bottom 5 in both offense and defense. Utah St easily takes this one.

Upset of the Week:

Wisconsin over Penn St
Phil Steele is a college football analyst who has been publishing his annual College Football Preview since 1995. His magazine is regarded as one of the best in the business.

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